As Season of the Force prepares to officially launch tomorrow, here’s a complete roundup of pictures, video and trivia covering the new Star Wars: A Galactic Celebration at Disneyland Paris, from 14th January to 26th March 2017.
It was only last August we got the confirmation that Disneyland Paris was planning its own Season of the Force. Now, here it is — new Star Wars characters, a new stage, daytime show and a truly spectacular nighttime celebration.
The team behind this project have totally pulled it off and, in a matter of months, given the resort something to be genuinely proud of, creating a huge new selling point during a time of year notoriously hard to sell.
And here they are, assembled during the final rehearsals this week:
This was always going to be the most exciting part of the events, and it doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it probably exceeds the expectations of most of us: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror proves a superb projection surface for the 16 high definition video projectors covering 2,500 m² of its walls.
But not just a blank canvas, the way these scenes have been designed around and integrated into the building’s structure is truly a wonder; projection mapping that even rivals Disney Dreams!. During the Cantina scene, for example, the hotel suddenly resembles a representation of the famous musical eatery itself, with characters in its windows.
The 28 m² LED screen is also used to great effect, often playing out video of a famous Star Wars clip while a projection-mapped backdrop gives us the wider scene. For example, on the screen we see Han Solo inside the Millennium Falcon — “Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.” — while the asteroid field and meandering ship itself are projected behind, even giving a new dimension to the classic movie scenes themselves.
While pre-opening blurbs clearly stated this being a projection — not a fireworks — spectacular, pyrotechnics are still used in some considerable number, particularly at the beginning and the impressive finale, exploding from all over the Hollywood Tower Hotel’s rooftops.
A huge collection of powerful spotlights are also well-placed and well-used, situated behind and on top of the tower and even amongst the audience on new lighting rigs. Production Courtyard has new speakers hidden under building canopies all around, to give a “360-degree” immersive sound.
One final striking stunt is to have live characters actually appear on the new stage, creating a multi-layered and very three-dimensional feel to what could have just been a flat projection show.
Captain Phasma appears with First Order Stormtroopers, Darth Maul conducts lightsaber swordplay and Kylo Ren is surrounded by red flames, appearing and disappearing from a stage lift. At the end, in a stirring finale, they join the full gathering including Chewbacca, Darth Vader, R2-D2 and C-3PO.
There’s no real storyline here, just a triumphant celebration of the franchise, successfully leading us through mystery, action, drama and suspense to a heroic finale.
If you want to see more spoilers than even these pictures, Endor Express (who also have a great article covering the launch) posted a nice video clip of highlights — enough to get a taste but not ruin the whole show:
If, however, it’s the whole show you’re after, this ED92TV video of the final private rehearsal is start-to-finish spoilers:
Update (20/01): And here’s over 2 minutes of spectacular official video footage:
At this point, it’s interesting to compare the show to Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular, the show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida used as the basis for this new production. Here’s a full video — with a spoiler warning again even for the Paris show:
Though Disneyland Paris has taken much of the music score, ordering of scenes and video animation, this is clearly far from a copy-and-paste show. Over in Florida, the Chinese Theater centrepiece of the park is much lower and wider, creating a more enveloping feel to the show if not being quite as ideal for projection mapping.
Video clips are played mostly onto the two wings of the building, and it lacks a large “face” to create the kind of big, fully-formed mapping which transforms the Tower of Terror here. In fact, the Tower of Terror might just make a better projection surface than any of Disney’s worldwide castles.
Every scene has been completely redesigned for Disneyland Paris to fit in with a 3D model of the Tower of Terror’s dimensions, maximising its potential to transform into completely new scenes, with all the visuals finalised in France.
Though sold equally as much for its enormous fireworks, it’s questionable how much these add to the experience in Florida; most being launched from a good distance behind the park, off to one side, and not really integrated with the action up-front, except for some launched around the viewing area.
Lasers are perhaps the only element sadly lacking in Paris (from what we’ve seen so far), used to great effect in the battle scenes in Florida.
Which one wins may be down to personal preference, but with its live character moments Paris pushes the runtime up to 15 minutes, versus Florida’s 13.
As a complete package, Paris seems to work better visually and technically. They may have swapped “Spectacular” for “Celebration”, but that doesn’t make this show any less stunning.
Remarkably, as of this weekend, if only for three months, Walt Disney Studios Park now has a nighttime spectacular to stand proudly against its neighbour.
Star Wars: A Galactic Celebration is an absolute must-see spectacle for anyone with even the slightest affinity with the Star Wars galaxy — if you weren’t planning to visit for Season of the Force, maybe it’s time to rethink?